Tango sieve

2007, December 27

Attended one milonga on Dec 16th and did not dance because
– There were much less lone followers (or groups of followers) than lone leaders and among the couples I did not know anybody well enough to borrow the lady.
– And I wasn’t enjoying the place because it was cold.

Attended another milonga on Dec 17th and did not dance because
– There were much less lone followers (or groups of followers) than lone leaders and among the couples I did not know anybody well enough
to borrow the follower.
– And I wasn’t enjoying the place because of the tobacco smoke-filled air.

Attended another milonga on Dec 24th (Milonga hosts here tend to remain open during the holidays, while the teachers tend to close their studios. I wish it were the other way.)
Here the lone leaders were only slightly outnumbering their female counterparts yet I did not dance because
– The followers were worse than me (well as bad as me but for a longer time; advanced bad dancers, sort of).
– And I wasn’t enjoying the place because of the tobacco smoke-filled air.

Strange phenomenon by the way, this lack of acceptable followers (read: can dissociate, has balance, lets the leader know where her weight is, can hear the beat, knows what a free leg is) and this persistance of so-so ones. It’s like a sieve pan which would keep the gravel and would let go the nuggets.

I’ll have another try tonight. I know the place, I’ve been there a few months ago. There were three of us, the DJ, one lady and me. I carefully let him invite her. She’s not a nugget but he’s a good dancer, he managed to do something.

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Some like it hot

2007, December 24

A kind guy had brought a basket of roses at the Friday practica. Plus, one of my class partners was here, she knows me well and is not surprised any more by all the stupid ideas that can come to my mind. And by the way she’s not too serious either in her approach of the dance, definitely not in a Quest for Perfection. Or she would have chosen another partner.

So she made no objection when I told her that I wanted to find out whether the rose thing in Some like it hot was a special effect or not. Like, when the camera is not filming, Tony Curtis spits his rose while an assistant brings a fresh one and puts in into Jack Lemmon’s mouth.

The roses brought by the kind guy were perfect in this respect, not too heavy or fragile, red of course, and last but not least, without thorns.

I took the first turn, holding the rose just under the flower to leave the main part of the stem available. After a few steps we did a half-turn, I said “Ready?” (We discovered that it’s perfectly possible to talk with a rose in the mouth. ) and when the turn was over the flower was in her mouth. It’s not difficult at all.
After a while I asked the rose back but miscalculated somehow my jaw movement and chomped on the stem, almost breaking it and making any further exchange impossible. We stopped for a second, she threw the stem away while I adjusted the flower in her corsage.

Now, if I ever become a movie director (for a toothpaste ad maybe) I’ll know that it’s perfectly possible without any special effect.

ten-buck cold

2007, December 16

With most of my partners gone back to their distant homelands (Peru, Italy) for X-mas, I could not attend any class this week. So today I tried a milonga instead.

“Quick, close the door, it’s cold!” were the welcome words by the host. Below zero outside, and not so hot inside either as there was no significant heating and the ceiling was high.

10 bucks for entrance, ok I’ve seen worse.

Only couples, and lone leaders. I counted twelve of them. None of the followers here knew me either so there was no danger of being invited. No free hot tea here but at least I had brought my current favourite book. After two hours I had read 5 or 6 more chapters while listening to tango music. Only problem, I was almost shivering because of the cold temperature combined with the lack of motion. On the floor the leaders were showing no sign of being ready to loan their follower, and around the floor the situation had not improved, there was still a shortage of followers. Definitely no chance to warm-up.

Finally one friend entered the milonga. A guy. He saw me and came by.

How long have you been here ?

Two hours, I came when it opened.”

…like beginners do, he added mentally.

He was happy to see me, and also happy to see me leaving, I was eliberating one seat and improving the leaders/followers ratio. I hope he enjoyed his night, there were three hours left and an orchestra was announced. As for me, basically I bought a 10-buck cold.

In milongas, we move counter-clockwise because left-handers are a minority.

Ok that was the abstract, now let’s explain a bit.

We move counter-clockwise because it’s a legacy from older dances coming from older countries, like the viennese waltz. Of course saying this is only shifting the problem one inch further.

Now, why are people walking counter-clock-wise in the viennese waltz? Because when doing all these clockwise half-turns (1-2-3 to have your back to the LOD, 4-5-6 to complete your turn; and the opposite for the lady), moving counter-clockwise will make your life much easier when you arrive in a corner. Instead of a 360° turn you’ll have to execute a mere 270° . Walking clockwise on the other hand would force you to overturn each time you meet a corner.

But then, why did the waltzers of the past choose to (half-)turn to the right? They could have walked clock-wise and turned to the left instead. But not with this slight offset that puts the lady slightly to the guy’s right. The partner on your right is on the way and makes the turn to the left quite complicated. It’s no wonder that just anybody can waltz to the right, while waltzing to the left requires some technique.

All fine, an offset helps the pivots, but why to the right? Because the princes, generals, emperors, officers attending the imperial balls had not only a snazzy pomp uniform but also a snazzy pomp sword in its snazzy pomp scabbard and this sword being at their left side, it was only natural to put the lady where there was some space left, i.e to the man’s right. Sure they may not dance with the sword but they’d keep the scabbard and belt, if only to hold the trousers.

And why was the sword here and not on the other side? Well it’s the only possibility when the swords are drawn from their scabbards with the right hand, because of the length of the blade. For colts it’s different (unless the rifle is
long) and if tango had been invented by cow-boys then we might very well be walking clock-wise nowadays.

Finally, why were all these officers from the past time taking their sword with their right hand? Because most of them were right-handers, and all the armies in the world having this tendency to want their soldiers look all the same, even the unfortunate left-handers had to follow, thus wasting precious time during battles to draw their sword and dying at a younger age than their right-hander counterparts.